The Anatomy of a Search

booleanstringsUncategorized 8 Comments

A Boolean search string in a search engine has its structure. Its elements are: keywords, key phrases in quotation marks, operators (like site:), and special characters (like “*” in Google). Unfortunately, this structure has little to do with what we have in mind when we search; so the challenge is to translate our search for people with certain professional background into those cryptic-looking strings. To facilitate this translation, let’s think of the structure of our search this way:

1. What type of a document are we looking for? This could be: a resume, an online profile on a particular network, a list of people, someone’s contact info, or some other type of a page. To get to that type of results (perhaps risking some false positives but that’s OK) we could start the search string with:

  • A resumeintitle:resume OR inurl:resume -jobs -job…
  • An online profile (example):…
  • A list of peoplefiletype:xls name title company phone email…
  • etc.

2. What kind of terminology are we looking for? These are your keywords, like Java, or C++, or SAP, etc.

3. What is the physical location? We add names of towns, area codes, zip codes, and other location pointers.

4. What are the target titles? Target companies?  These seem straightforward.

5. What do we want to exclude?  (Example: exclude “managers”) Use the minus to exclude words.

This doesn’t cover it all – but in many cases will help someone new to complex Boolean searching to get going. To construct your initial search just follow the structure: 1-2-3-4-5. Then (as always) alter the string depending on the results.

As an example, let’s search for resumes of Java developers in NYC from one of the large Wall Street companies. Let’s construct the search following the steps above; this is an example to illustrate the concept – and a fine search string to play with:

intitle:resume OR inurl:resume -jobs -job Java NYC OR 212 OR “new york” developer Bloomberg OR Goldman OR Morgan OR Merill -manager

That is my point for today. I am very interested to hear if it would help to create Boolean strings.

Comments 8

  1. This is helpful. Would you mind showing an example for the “list of people” such as a list of employees working for a particular company or list of members in a professional association?


    1. Cindy,
      Let’s imagine first what we are going to find. There are many lists out there – but can we expect to find a list of employees for a particular company online, in the open? I don’t think so. Some lists of members may be available, but most are “behind” a password. This is info from the deep web and we can’t expect to find it on Google.
      There are many lists that can be found though! Try something like this on Google, for example:
      filetype:xls first last name email company title address state city 2011 attendees healthcare

      1. Thanks Irina,
        Can your suggest a way to find names, titles, contact information for people attending conferences? I know that often these types of lists are sent out to conference participants but don’t know if there is a way for non-attendees to access them.
        Your patience with those with a big learning curve is so appreciated.


  2. Thank you Irina,

    This is most helpful. I did my homework and played with the above string: when searching for resume, what is the difference of placing intitle: or inurl: before the work? I also wonder if is your prefered profile finding site.

    I apprreciate your mails always!

    1. is one of many great sites out there. I love their User interface.

      inurl and intitle point to different parts of a web page – the URL (the web address) and the title that your browser shows. Try using each one separately (along with multiple keywords), to see the difference.

  3. is a very good site to get details of executive levels, Email Formats, Comapny Address. Any one can get Zoominfo account for free by installing Zoominfo Community Edition in your system, by which you can get complete access to zoominfo. But you should not use massive usage of Zoominfo with CE (Community Edition) otherwise they may block your account….. Use Wisely….. 🙂

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